How nasty is the Arizona immigration bill? Well, the state Senate's own summary is available here, and the text of the bill is here. Among its failings, if passed, the law would require government employees, including law-enforcement officials, to inquire into the immigration status of anybody they encounter "if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S."
What constitute's reasonable suspicion? That's not defined, so it's pretty much up to the petty official on the spot. That makes every trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and every effort to report a crime, a potential immigration interrogation for anybody with a sun tan. Nativist Arizonans like to complain that immigrants don't submit to the various licenses and permits that bedevil modern life. If untrue in the past, that will certainly be true in the future.
And immigrant neighborhoods may have to deal with criminals themselves, since a call to 911 will just be an invitation for trouble.
The bill also prohibits any effort to restrict government officials from compiling and exchanging information on people's immigration status for even the most petty of reasons. That's anybody's status -- not just aliens. Welcome to the database.
The bill turns mere presence on public or private land in the state by an alien into trespassing if that person "is not carrying his or her alien registration card or has willfully failed to register." You say you invited them onto your land? Too bad -- it's still trespassing, and a separate charge because you dared to "conceal, harbor or shield an alien from detection."
Oh, and the bill also forbids hiring day laborers from your car. Really. There must be a union guy among the authors.
Cardinal Roger Mahony may have exaggerated a tad when he referred to "German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques" (Arizona still lags in the areas of forced labor and bullets behind the ear), but the immigration law is intrusive and authoritarian. It assumes that economic activity is a privilege to be allocated by the state and that individuals must submit themselves to inspection by government officials until they have proven the pristine status of their nationality.
Perhaps the proposed law's worst sin, aside from its brutal hostility toward people seeking to do nothing more than work hard and make a life for themselves in this country, is the vastly expanded opportunities it creates for government officials to harass anybody they meet and force them to produce documents and demonstrate their innocence of alien taint.
It really is nativism as channeled through a bureaucratic police state -- one that's more Brazil than Schindler's List.
And that's the mess sitting on Jan Brewer's desk.
Labels: race for the border